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Microsoft loses Korean patent suit

Court rules against Microsoft over translation technology that is important for key Korean market

Sales of Microsoft Office in South Korea may be disrupted, at least temporarily, after a court ruled against Microsoft in a patent case covering technology for automatic translation between English and Korean.

On Friday, South Korea's Supreme Court rejected a request by Microsoft to throw out a patent which had been obtained in the 1980s by Professor Lee Keung-Hae of  Hankuk Aviation University. The action against Microsoft had first been filed in 2000 by a company acting on his behalf, P&IB, according to Agence France-Press (AFP).

P&IB is suing Microsoft for damages of 70bn South Korean won (£39m). The patent in question enables automatic translation between English and Korean within Microsoft Office applications. Such translation is crucial for Microsoft to retain market share in fast-expanding markets such as South Korea.

"The decision on Friday will strengthen our position in a fight to win the pending damages suit," the head of P&IB, Kim Kil-Hae, told AFP. The suit demands that Microsoft stop selling Office software which infringes on the patent.

Microsoft intends to keep fighting the damages claim. According to Microsoft’s Korean lawyer, Chung Jae-Hoon, the company last week filed new evidence which it says shows that there was "nothing new" in Professor Lee Keung-Hae's patent.